NEW DELHI -- Almost 300 cases of murder, assault and harassment relating to information activism have been recorded in the ten years since the Right To Information Act came into force on October 12, 2005, and Maharashtra has emerged as the most dangerous state for RTI activists in the country.
While there is no official data on RTI-related crime, figures complied by the Delhi-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative found 230 cases of assault and harassment, 49 murders, and four suicides, over the past ten years.
CHRI data found that Maharashtra has double the number of cases (murders, attacks, harassment) than Gujarat, which comes in second followed by Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Maharashtra also has the highest number of murders followed by Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
Some of the major reasons for alleged murders include: unearthing illegal mining in forested areas, exposing sand mining mafia and construction industry mafia, raising one’s voice against encroachment of property by the rich and the powerful, exposing illegal electricity connections of powerful private companies, and protesting against the construction of a nuclear power plant.
The number of attacks, CHRI's Venkatesh Nayak told HuffPost India, have been in a "steady state," but the "disturbing trend of absolute inaction" by the police and judiciary had promoted impunity.
Till December 2013, the National Human Rights Commission had taken note of only six RTI-related criminal cases in the past ten years, according to CHRI data.
In cases where RTI activists are attacked or threatened, Nayak said that Information Commissioners had to be proactive in getting the relevant authorities to release the data, which would quash the motive to cause harm.
"With the exception of an honourable few, most information commissioners are retired bureaucrats, who are lacking enthusiasm and energy, instead of ringing the alarm bells," he said. "Every case of harassment or murder needs to be tackled on a war-footing."